Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Self-Portrait, 1906
Henri Matisse painted only few selfportraits proper, and this is counted among the most remarkable of them. Its direct, almost confrontational feel makes it unusual. The artist portrayed himself at close range, directing a firm and confident gaze towards the spectators. No attributes speak of his profession as an artist; he is dressed in a simple, striped jersey commonly used by the fishermen of the era.
The presentation of the artist himself
Thus, Matisse has elected to present himself as an unspoiled ”primitive” who speaks to us as a human being rather than as an artist. The healthy features of the artist’s face, painted with rapid, coarse brushstrokes, also speak of the brute strength of the man and of painting as a product of a primeval human force.
Two different portraits
Compared to the flat portrait of Madame Matisse painted the year before, this self-portrait is characterised
by a far more three-dimensional, almost sculptural modelling of the face. Moreover, this picture has a darker, more subdued colour scheme. Only the green shades in the face can be said to continue the colouristic experiments of the earlier picture. Together, the two portraits testify to the range of Matisse’s art, something that grew even more obvious in the years that followed.